During 1978-89, 245 women in Troms and Finnmark counties gave birth to 265 liveborn with birth weight < or = 1,500 g. The incidence of liveborn < or = 1,500 g, and of live- and stillborn < or = 1,500 g did not change significantly during the study period, but the stillborn proportion of live- and stillborn < or = 1,500 g decreased. The proportion of patients that had intrauterine transfer to hospitals with neonatal intensive care unit (72%), and neonatal transport (17%) did not change significantly. The mortality rate was constant (34%), probably due to change in registration practice leading to an increase in liveborn < or = 750 g. The handicap rate at four years of age decreased from 21% in 1978-81 to 12% in 1986-89, although the rates of moderate (8%) and severe (2%) handicap were unchanged. Cerebral palsy occurred in 10%, and blindness due to retinopathy of prematurity in 1%. The results are compatible with those of other studies from the same period.